Friday, July 30, 2010

Administrators as Technology Leaders: Is Being Tech-Savvy Enough?

I'd like to address the following question posed by Scott McLeod at The question is: Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?

I'd like to begin by looking at a few lines from Building Engaged Schools by Gary Gordon. Gordon says of principals: To be sure, every principal must possess a great deal of knowledge and many skills these days, perhaps more of each than ever before... These talents, combined with knowledge and skills, create strengths that lead to outstanding performance.... Nevertheless, great principals intuitively distinguish between those aspects of running the school that play to their strengths and those that are better left to others. They delegate the latter tasks and activities whenever possible, refining over time their own sense of self-awareness and surrounding themselves with staff members who possess complementary talents. (p. 178)

Now, in light of Gordon's comments, let's revisit the original question. First, the more tech-savvy an administrator is in 2010, the farther he or she will be able to lead the school. Attitude often reflects leadership and a school community's attitude about technology can be influenced greatly by the principal. A principal's interest in technology, understanding of technology (hardware, software, web 2.0, etc.), and vision for integration of technology into classrooms will impact the school.

Having said that, perhaps as great an impact can be made by a principal who is wise enough to know his or her own limits, to know what he or she does not know. A principal may have the interest, vision and some understanding, but a principal cannot be expected to be an expert (possessing knowledge beyond the savvy level) in everything (try as we might). It is at this point, at the limits of a principal's knowledge, where the principal must be mature enough to surround himself or herself with others who possess more knowledge. This is where true experts in the field (technology coordinators, etc.) play a vital role in the success of the school.

A principal must understand where his or limits are and must solicit the counsel and employ the skills of those who are more tech-savvy. This is the point at which a principal's vision and understanding may in importance outweigh his or her knowledge, as it is the principal's duty to communicate a vision which the technology person/coordinator/department can bring to fruition. While it is important for an administrator to be savvy, it may be less important to be an expert than to know when to bring in the expert and empower him or her to carry out the principal's vision.

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